Female voices of the documentary world - Vignette Interactive

Female voices of the documentary world

In continued celebration of International Women’s Day (why not make it women’s month — right?), I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some female documentarians who are currently making strides in the industry.

As Tara discussed with photographer Daniella Zalcman in last Wednesday’s blog post, there seems to be a lack of female representation in the film world despite the number of women who consistently create such groundbreaking content. So it’s become increasingly important to give credit where credit is due, and highlight some of these women and their incredibly influential projects.

The following are just a few of many female non-fiction filmmakers who have recently come out with great works.


Alma Har’el

This documentarian has been around for a while, but somehow continues to release projects that each seem to be more revolutionary than the last. Alma Har’el broke into the scene with her 2011 documentary Bombay Beach, an intimate look at a once-thriving town on the edge of the now dried up Salton Sea in California. Since then, Har’el has directed several short works and music videos, all employing the same poetic and minimalist style as Bombay Beach.  Her most recent film, LoveTrue, which premiered last year at Tribeca, is an atmospheric, songlike piece that follows the life stories of three dynamic characters interlaced with dreamlike sequences until the lines between real and fake become blurred. It is an emotionally poignant film that emphasizes the power of cinematography in conveying a film’s overall message.

Beyond her documentary career, Har’el has also worked on a few commercial pieces as well. After noticing the lack of women directors in the advertising world, she launched an initiative called Free the Bid, an online campaign urging creative agencies to have a female director option when they bid a client. It’s an inspiring message, and it will be exciting to follow Her’el in both her filmmaking and activist projects.


Lily Cole

For model-turned-activist-turned-filmmaker Lily Cole, there doesn’t seem to be an artistic medium she can’t master. As a teenager, she was the youngest model to ever appear on the cover of British Vogue, and has since graduated from Cambridge, launched a technology company and published a book.

One of Cole’s latest exploits is documentary filmmaking. Last summer, she took a trip Samos, Greece, to witness the effects the refugee crises was having on the island. Luckily she took a camera with her, and ended up directing a short film about her experience. The result, Light in Dark Places, is a 12 minute emotion-packed piece offering a glimpse into the lives of those whose existence has come to be defined by the worsening migrant crisis. This is one of Cole’s first experiences behind the camera, but following the success of her first project, hopefully she will keep at it.


Zöe Ghertner

Zoe Ghertner has been behind the lens ever since she bought her first camera as a young girl. But until recently, she focused on portrait photography. That is until January 21 this year, when Zoe turned her camera on the participants of The Women’s March to capture footage that she later turned into a powerful verite-style protest film. Although under 5 minutes, the film was able to grasp at the emotion of the event all wrapped into one aesthetically-appealing package.

Throughout her career, Ghertner has spoken out on women’s issues — from issues of body shaming in the fashion world to stereotypes of femininity. Her photography has always expressed her activist leanings, so it is no surprise that her film career seems to be headed in the same direction.


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